Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sewing Success!

It's a skirt!

First Skirt

Side View

In a messy room! Nina Garcia would definitely not approve (boring and poor construction, I'd be Auf'ed for sure), but my goal was not high fashion. It was to produce a wearable article of clothing, and that it is. In fact, it actually looks pretty good, as long as you don't look too closely. The fabric is quilting cotton from JoAnn's and is maybe a little stiff for the skirt, but other than that, I'm not going to bother to point out any other problems (and there are many) since they don't show (much).

Skirt Fabric

Close up of the fabric. I'd like to make the skirt again, this time in wool (with the temperature registering at 14 degrees, I can't wrap my head around summer weight anything).

Stash Fabric

But's a fabric stash! I found 6 yards of this in an antique/junk store in Grass Lake. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but I'll think of something.

Cutest Kitten in All the Land

Completely gratuitous picture of an adorable kitten.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bits and Pieces

By tomorrow, I should have more to say. Or at least pictures of interesting projects. Or less than interesting projects. For now, though, a couple of pictures and a story (very short, I promise).

Baby Sweater In Situ

Baby sweater and pants, in situ. Isn't she adorable? I'm verklempht.

Pinned Pattern

This project is finished and I don't hate it. Until I have pictures, I'll leave it a mystery.

And a story. As I've said before, I love the Oscars. The ceremony was pretty boring this year, unfortunately Jon Stewart didn't manage to offend anyone (he ticked off both Steven Spielberg and George Clooney last time he hosted, which I found pretty funny. But I'm kind of mean that way). The only really good story of the night involved the winners of best song, "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irlova from the movie Once. Their win was a bit of a surprise, since they were up against a bunch of Di5ney songs (and they almost always win). They bounded up to the stage and Hansard used up all the mike time with his speech. Stewart thought Irlova deserved better and brought her back out so she could make her speech. It was a very sweet, genuine moment.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mix Tape

Since I don't have much of interest to report on the knitting front -- Frost Flowers and I are getting along much better, and I've screwed up Equinox yet again -- and the Great Feline War continues, but has worn out it's usefulness for blog fodder, I decided it is time for another list of random songs from my iPod. If I can turn one more person onto Big Country, my work here will be done.

1. One Step Up – Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love)

This is one of my favorite albums. It came out around the time he married and divorced his first wife, and I was obsessed with it during the time I was dating my first boyfriend. Not really a great combination, since the album is about the struggles and complexities of relationships. Love should be simple when you are 20, but I already knew it wasn’t. “When I look at myself I don’t see/the man I wanted to be/Somewhere along the line I slipped off track/I’m caught movin’ one step up and two steps back”.

2. Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes – Los Lobos (By the Light of the Moon)

This came out the same year as La Bamba, but I’m pretty sure I got it because of a review in Rolling Stone. They are a great fusion of rock, country and Tex-Mex, and their sound is so warm. This is a great party song.

3. Melt Your Heart – Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins (Rabbit Fur Coat)

This is a great album, though I’m not sure why it hasn’t yet inspired a Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley buying spree. This song has a sweet, lilting quality.

4. One April Day – Stephin Merritt (Pieces of April)

Pieces of April was a lovely little movie (starring Kate Holmes before she was kidnapped by the pod people) about the woes of Thanksgiving. I can relate. The soundtrack is a terrific collection of songs by a couple of Stephin Merritt projects, the 6ths and the Magnetic Fields. This is the only solo song on the collection and is so very beautiful, sometimes it makes me want to cry.

5. Places – Georgie James (Places)

I haven’t generally been interested in music NPR puts out there, Georgie James (and Mocean Worker) is a recent exception. I don’t know the album well enough to separate out the songs, and to be honest, these all sound kind of similar to me, but not in a bad way. I like that GJ have a retro ‘70s-‘80s sound, without sounding like anything I’ve ever heard before.

6. Shake Ya Boogie – Mocean Worker (Cinco De Mowo!)

Another NPR find, and completely different from anything I would expect to like. Mocean Worker is a producer/DJ (the album is classified as Electronica/Dance), for this record (CD, whatever) he takes classic jazz lines, cuts them up and puts them back together to a Latin beat. Completely random and weird, but very fun.

7. Just a Shadow – Big Country (Steeltown)

You might remember Big Country as a one hit wonder (“In a Big Country”) from the ‘80s, but they continued recording and had modest success in Britain. Steeltown was their second full length album, and in 1984 it hit my 16 year-old self like a ton of bricks. I was still listening to a lot of Air Supply and Duran Duran, songs about love and hungry wolves, Steeltown is about the failing Scottish economy, war, and love, stuff that mattered. I can’t say enough about this album, even 24 years later it sounds fresh to me. “I know there is no need for what’s been done/I know there is enough for everyone/Frustration brings a heavy hand to bear”.

8. Walking Spanish – Tom Waits (Rain Dogs)

That Tom Waits is never included in Best Songwriter/Album/Song/Whatever lists negates every one of them. Sure his voice is hard to get used to, it sounds like cheap whiskey and unfiltered cigarettes, but once you do I think you’ll find real beauty there. This song is a sing-songy chant, “Take off your watch, rings and all/Even Jesus wanted just a little more time/He’s walking spanish down the hall”.

9. Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key – Billy Bragg & Wilco (Mermaid Avenue)

Mermaid Avenue 1 & 2 are collections of previously unpublished Woody Guthrie lyrics, which Bragg and Wilco set to music. This is a lovely song, Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs) sings on it with Jeff Tweedy (I think), and while I sometimes find her a bit tiresome, her voice is very pretty.

10. Biko – Peter Gabriel (third self-titled album)

This is such a beautiful powerful anthem about Steven Biko.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bowling for Honkytonk

Len and I went out on Saturday night. In our case, this is kind of a notable event since we never go out. We are both cheap and lazy, and anti-social. We really are a good pair.

Bowling Balls

We went bowling. Even though I can't bowl (I scored 73 and 90), I think it's a hoot. And I don't care to get better at it, thank you very much.

Alex's Boot

A friend of our's was playing bass in a honky tonk band at the bowling alley. This foot is not his.


Nor is this arm. I'm not sure that tattoo is very honky tonk.


The hat is, though.

Drink of the Night

This lethal concoction was all the rage. I tasted it, and it was nasty -- pineapple juice, vodka and possibly a nuclear reaction. I'm more of a gin and tonic girl, myself.

Bowling and country music. It's a great way to spend a Saturday night.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Random This and That

A Valentine's Evening to Remember: Len called me when I was close to home, "Hey, do you want to go to Big Boy in Brooklyn (not New York) for Valentine's Day dinner?". He'd been looking in vain all day for salt to spread on parking lots and was going to make a last ditch effort in Brooklyn. We ended up stopping at a hardware store in Napoleon (don't you love these small town names?) where he found just what he needed. Rather than continue on to Brooklyn or try to choose among our very limited options, we just went home and made dinner (a lovely salmon, asparagus and roasted potatoes). We are so romantic.

Not that I mind, I'm not a fan of the day. On the other hand, I heard a lovely story on NPR yesterday which has me thinking about it in a different way. Ted Kooser, the U.S. poet laureate from 2004-2006, sent Valentine poems for 20 years (he finally stopped when his list reached 2,700). They are all published in a new book, and I highly recommend reading the ones on the story's website.

Update Chez Feline Central. They are starting to calm down. We are using Comfort Zone which the cats seem to perceive as an amorphous benevolent kitty god, or something. The package says to give the product 4 weeks for behavior change, but Judy's attacks seem less frequent and not as vicious. She has even let me pick her up, yesterday she drooled on me, which is kind of sweet in a gross way. Fred has no problem using the litter box in the bathroom, but I cannot stress enough how temporary this solution is. I won't go into how gross it is, but this is really only one step better than her using the floor.

Pretty Babies. We had dinner with Len's sister, Amy and her twins. I think they still qualify has The World's Prettiest Babies.

Max's Eyes

Maddie on a rug

You could disagree, I suppose, but I don't see how.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Home #10

It's been a while since I did one of these. The snow hasn't been exactly inspiring, but I stopped yesterday and captured this.

Frozen Wolf Lake
Frozen Wolf Lake

A Lot of Knitting Happened...

...To the detriment of house cleaning, that's for sure! The cats have me so frazzled, all I can do is knit. Likely excuse, I know.

My plan was to show you lovely pictures of lovely knitting and bad sewing, but all I have are crummy pictures.

Equinox Sleeve

Here is my version of the Equinox sleeve. The colors are a little different, but I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. Also, I recounted the stitches in the body. It seems my original count was wrong, and I do, in fact, have the correct number of stitches.

Fair Isle Sleeve

This is a horrid picture. One color is off and it is throwing the whole thing out of whack. The background for the bands of pink petals ("peeries", according to Meg Swanson) should be a very pale green, not tan. Oh well. This is the one bit of knitting that hasn't been giving me fits lately.

First Sewing Project

And here is a crummy picture of my first sewing project since Junior High Home Ec. The seams are crooked and don't match up, the handles are slightly different lengths, one is a bit tilted, and the lining shows more than it should. But here's the thing: it isn't going to fall apart, so I'm putting this in the Success column.


And it has a pocket inside. Sweet!

It doesn't take much to please me these days.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not All Doom and Gloom

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. This is definitely one of the more challenging feline situations I've had. We have a litter box in the bathroom which is helping a lot, and Happy Kitty Nerve Gas is spewing through the house (apparently it can take 4 weeks to take effect).

It isn't all doom and gloom Chez Feline Central.

Fred in a Box

Fred shoved herself into a shoe box, then she took a nap. Look at that little face -- she is so worth all the pain (Judy is, too, it's just harder to make a case for her).

Fred and Gwen Watching CTV

Then Fred and Gwen took in a little cat TV. By the way, Gwen is not a large cat, she's about 9 pounds, but a good portion of that is pudge, otherwise she is pretty short. She is quite neurotic, but in an interesting, quirky way (as opposed to a Kill-the-Kitten way), I'll be interested to see how she reacts to the nerve gas.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Roadblocks Still Holding

First of all, it isn't as though I've been having a truly bad year -- others I know have been dealing with roll over accidents, floods, house fires, illness, wrongful arrests and chipped teeth. I know quarreling cats and bad knitting don't measure up, but it is my blog so I'm going to go ahead and whine.

The cats are still at it. We got anti-anxiety drugs for Judy, but we can't get her to take the pills. The first night I stuck one in some wet food and she ate it, but she's gotten wise to that trick. She either won't eat the food at all or eats around the pill, breaking it up does no good because she can taste or smell the medicine. She acts as though we are trying to poison her. I'd be more willing to let Judy's anger play itself out, but there are two issues. One is that Judy was a little anxious and shy as a kitten, but rather than getting better she has gotten worse, so I have no reason to think she will eventually accept Fred since she doesn't now. The other big problem is that because Judy attacks her, Fred seems to have given up on the litter boxes altogether. I'm concerned if this continues much longer, Fred won't ever use the box.

Our next step is to try the Happy Kitty Pheromone Diffuser (I don't think this is the official name). This isn't an inexpensive solution (and will affect all of the cats), but maybe it will chill Judy out enough that we can give her the pills. If it doesn't work? Does anyone want a massive, foul-tempered calico? She comes with a bottle of anti-anxiety drugs and a bunch of diffusers. You'll need them.

Knitting is a mixed bag. I've restarted the Fair Isle Cardigan. The only reference I can find to this is from April, obviously I have derelict in my blogging duties since I've just started the gusset and haven't been giving you a stitch by stitch update. I don't even have a picture. You will have to trust me when I say it is pretty and I haven't (so far) screwed it up, despite my best efforts.

The Frost Flowers and Leaves continues to be problematic. I thought I fixed the problem in row 51 (missing decrease), but I can't get row 52 to work correctly. I looked at the 6th printing of Gathering of Lace to see if I could figure it out (I have the first, error-riddled, printing), but it doesn't look like the publishers (insert swearing) fixed row 51? I will need to take that row out and re-do it, I haven't worked up the energy yet.

Equinox. Betty, a reader who kindly sent an e-mail when she couldn't comment, remembered Alice Starmore's technique of sewing or tacking steeks down, and that may be a reasonable way to deal with these. I don't have the particular book in which Starmore explores this technique, but last night I was reading Handknitting with Meg Swanson (oh c'mon, you read knitting books in bed, too!), and she also discusses a couple of ways to tack down steek stitches.

But I have another problem: leaving the steek stitches aside, the number of stitches I have on the needle doesn't seem to bear any relation to the number of stitches I should have, it looks right now like I have about 10 too many for the Large and 12 too few for the XL. {sigh} I've decided to knit the sleeves to the point that they get added in and see what happens. I should be ok if I have (or can get to) a multiple of 8 (that of the color chart for that section). I think.

My head hurts. I think I'm going to crawl under my desk and take a nap.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Making my Day

I left work on Thursday tired and crabby (some people might say that is my usual way of being, but I am ignoring them). I took Friday off and laid low all weekend, which was helpful, but dealing with the cats and continuing knitting problems ended up really bumming me out (man). So it was so lovely to come back to work yesterday and discover that Valerie had given me a You Make My Day Award, and it has left me verklemft. I'm very fond of Valerie's blog, so it is, indeed, an honor.

I know some people find these sorts of things burdensome or irritating, but as Sharon expressed so well in her post, they can be a terrific way of creating an online community, which is at least part of the reason we create blogs in the first place. Plus, I always appreciate an opportunity to yammer away about stuff I like. However, I'm going to try to make this a list of blogs I find inspiring for reasons other than knitting, mostly because I always find knitting inspiring.

So, in order of appearance in my Bloglines subscription (er, alphabetical):

A Dress A Day. Just what it purports to be. I love dresses, Erin's writing is wonderful (her "Secret Lives of Dresses" series is not to be missed, they can be found in her sidebar), and while she is giving the not-so-secret desire to sew dresses of my very own, it is not necessary to enjoy her blog.

Farmgirl Fare and In My Kitchen Garden. I'm counting these as one since the same blogger writes both; IMKG, in which the author mainly discusses her extensive vegetable garden, is an offshoot of FF, which is about her life on a Missouri farm. And food. Her Basic White Bread is fabulous.

Fashionist. Located in San Francisco, Mai takes pictures of people whose clothes catch her eye. I particularly like this blog because she is so positive, it has changed the way I see people on the street. I'm much more apt to see people whose style I like, though I have to admit to still shaking my inner fist at kids in mini skirts and Uggs, or flip-flops when it is 40 degrees and raining, or slippers (seriously? you couldn't find shoes?)

Manolo for the Big Girl. Manolo (a great Shoe Blog, but not the great Blahnik) has spun off into several different subjects -- brides, kids, men, food, etc. -- this one I identify with most closely. Part fashion, part You Go Girl, with the occasional book and movie review, Francesca and Plumcake's writing is funny and refreshing. This post is a great example of what they do best.

Matt Callow's Livejournal. Callow is an Ypsilanti based photographer who specializes in pinhole and crappy cameras. Amazing stuff.

Miss Information. A crabby, annoyed library clerk. Even though our patrons are faculty and phd and master degree candidates, I often know just how she feels.

NPR's This I Believe. Not a blog, but it is in my feeds, so I'm counting it. I love these essays, after hearing or reading one (or more) I feel reassured that we aren't necessarily headed for hell in a vapid handbasket. I'm particularly fond of Be Cool to the Pizza Dude and Always Go to the Funeral (which I first read during a time I seemed to be going to an awful lot of them).

Tales from the "Liberry". A small town library employee dealing with the crabby, the smelly, the "innanet crowd" and the bathroom challenged. Huh. That could describe my house!

Waiter Rant. I haven't ever waited tables (thank god), but I find this blog completely fascinating. His writing is stellar -- he is funny, bitter and often deeply empathetic.

yarnstorm. Her pictures are lovely, and her writing is so very British, this blog is a pool of calm. Jane Brocket has a book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, out in the UK, and I understand it is to be released in the US.

By the way, it seems that the Anonymous Comment function was working here. Please know, this was not intentional and should be fixed now.